‘Booze curtain’ in doubt after 'robust' meeting between minister and Independents
PLANS to force retailers to segregate alcohol products from other food and drink are in serious doubt after a “robust” meeting between the Independent Alliance and Minister of State Marcella Corcoran Kennedy.
Alliance TDs told the minister that the move is “a step too far” and they are in “total opposition” to it.
The dispute comes after as many as 20 Fine Gael TDs and senators aired their opposition to the legislation at a private party meeting on Wednesday.
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will require alcohol to be separated other products in shops by means of a physical barrier, through which alcohol products and advertising are not readily visible to members of the public.
Independent Minister of State Sean Canney and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran led the charge against the so-called ‘booze curtain’ during a meeting with Ms Corcoran Kennedy yesterday.
Mr Canney said it would be “a retrograde step” simply “inoperable”, while Mr Moran said the proposed laws were akin to a “nanny state”.
The Alliance described the conversation as “robust”, but Ms Corcoran Kennedy told the Irish Independent that in her view it has been “very cordial”.
“I’m delighted to engage with everybody as I have been doing in recent weeks. I said’ I’d take on board everybody’s concerns,” she said.
“We have to listen to everybody. People are making suggestions and I’m investigating those suggestions.”
Fifty-two amendments to the Bill have been submitted ahead of a debate in the Seanad in the coming weeks and sources expect its passage through to the Oireachtas to be “extraordinarily slow”.
Fine Gael sources said the pressure on the minister from her own backbenchers is “monumental”, although she was backed up by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald at the party meeting.
Both Independent Alliance members said they left Minister Corcoran-Kennedy under no illusion as to their total opposition.
“Segregation like this will add nothing to the control of drinking. Drinking is an issue in this country and education about alcohol needs to start in the school,” Mr Canney said.
Mr Moran added: “It is ridiculous that small retailers and corner shop owners are being expected to invest thousands of euro in their businesses just to segregate alcohol products from other products.”